What Marketers Need to Know for a Recession

XX min
Oct 04, 2022

You’ve probably been hearing plenty of chatter about recessions lately. Are we in one? Are we running straight into one?

“Dr. Doom” Roubini, an economist who predicted the 2008 recession, thinks in a few short months, the recession will be coming in full force.

Others, say we are in an “unofficial” recession. It seems like we can’t get a straight answer. Regardless, as an old teacher of mine said, failing to plan is planning to fail. So let’s answer some questions marketers might have about advertising in a recession based on a webinar I attended by Audience X.

Why Should I Advertise During a Recession?

Recessions usually mean that marketing gets cut. However, a time of economic downturn can be actually be beneficial for marketers in a few ways.
  1. Costs Decline: During a recession, ad and media costs are likely to decline. This means marketers can continue to engage with their audiences at a reduced price.
  2. Increased Share of Voice: Think about it. If your competitors decrease their spending on advertising, that means you can have a greater share of your audience’s attention.
  3. Corporate Stability: In uncertain times, people gravitate toward stability. By continuing ad spend, you maintain the stability that people crave.
  4. Long-Term Advantage: By continuing ad spend during a recession, you can reduce diminished consumer engagement.
  5. Creative Storytelling: A recession provides a unique opportunity to get creative with your messaging. You can watch a clip from the Over a Pint Podcast with travel industry veteran Jennifer Simmons, who told us how uncertainty enables creative opportunity here.

What is the Consumer Mindset During a Recession?

The consumer mindset when it comes to clicking on advertisements during a recession can be divided into a few categories:
  1. Stop-clicking: These are the people who halt purchasing for the foreseeable future.
  2. Continue-Clicking-Not-Purchasing: These people are clicking on advertisements but are not making any purchases.
  3. Continue-Clicking-Purchasing: These people live and breathe the motto carpe diem. They keep clicking and making purchases.

How are Products and Services Categorized During a Recession?

Recessions cause many people to rethink what they spend their money on. Products and services can be categorized four ways:
  1. Survivables: These are the products and services that are essential to life and keeping contentment.
  2. Justifiables: These are products and services you spend money on to treat yourself, within reason.
  3. Postponables: These are products and services you can definitely live without immediately, but will still consider at a later time.
  4. Expendables: These are products and services that are avoidable altogether.

What Creative Themes Have Worked Historically?

A great way to learn about what to do in the future is to analyze the past. There are four themes marketers should know for a recession.
  1. Humble Opulence: Appreciating the little things, but making everyday items seem as elevated luxury. It’s a good way to take people’s mind off a recession.
  2. Escapism: Retreating from the truth by engaging with brands or products that entertain. Providing escapism can give audiences a momentary reprieve from the reality of a recession.
  3. Durability: Focusing on the lifetime value of your product or service. Showing people that they’re getting more bang for their buck makes them feel good. Especially during a recession.
  4. Value: Focusing on the practical advantage of a product rather than cost. Price is on the forefront of everyone’s mind during a recession. Focusing on value provides advertiser’s another avenue to reach their audience.

What are Content and Landing Page Strategies for a Recession?

The goal of content and landing pages is to establish your brand as an authority. Strategies to reach this goal include:
  1. Repurposing content from other channels into blogs or other mediums.
  2. Rewriting top-performing content to be relevant for a recession.
  3. Supporting customers by educating them with information that directly relates to your product or service.

What are Copy Strategies for a Recession?

The goal of copy is to describe the benefits of your product or service. Strategies to reach this goal include:
  1. Personalization and Localization: Explaining the benefits of your product or service so the audience feels they are being spoken to directly.
  2. Value and Cost: Supporting the value of your product with special pricing or promotions in light of a recession.
  3. Quantified Success: Leveraging numerical data such as ratings, accolades, and other data that quantifies the benefits of your product or service.

What are Video Strategies for a Recession?

The goal of video is to reinforce your brands values, commitments, and heritage. Strategies to accomplish this goal include:
  1. Leveraging video to create an emotional connection by addressing consumer pain points. Addressing pain points via video is great because of the inherent emotional quality video has.
  2. Creating videos that focus on coming together as a community supported by your brand’s product or service. In hard times, we tend to seek support from others. Creating emotion filled videos focusing on community is a winning strategy.
  3. Using video to tell a story. Unlike banner ads or pop-ups, video has the unique ability to tell an engaging story that reinforces your brand’s values, commitments, and heritage.

What are Image Strategies for a Recession?

The goal of images to emphasize people and solutions. Here are a few ways of achieving this goal:
  1. People Before Product: Feature close crop images of people making eye contact supported by the solution your product or service provides. Like video, this emphasizes the emotion and humanity of your product or service that people crave during difficult times.
  2. Familiar Faces: Showing noteworthy people, such as experts in your industry, builds trust in the solution your product or service provides.
  3. Specificity: When displaying your product or service, show the key benefits and solutions it provides in innovative ways. For example, you could focus on how the product or service is helpful during a recession specifically.

Bringing it all Together

This is by no means an exhaustive list of strategies advertisers can use during a recession. It may be helpful however to get out of the weeds and get a 3,000 foot view of what advertisers can focus on. If you take anything away from this article about advertising during a recession it should be these things:
  1. Position your brand as an expert in the space.
  2. Focus on humanization by telling stories and tapping into emotions and community.
  3. Provide education and answers up front to support customers who are doing their research.

Although the status of a recession is uncertain, marketers can benefit from spending time developing winning strategies to help them persevere.